Vivid Niltava and Collared Finchbill, Wutai, January 12th

Mountains of Wutai
Mountains of Wutai

Birds Seen:

  • Vivid Niltava 1
  • Daurian Redstart 2
  • Blue Rock Thrush 3
  • Taiwan Scimitar-Babbler 5
  • Collared Finchbill 2
  • Black Bulbul 4
  • Chinese Bulbul 15
  • Black-eared Kite 6
  • House Swift 1
  • Grey Wagtail 5
  • White Wagtail 2

Sunday morning saw me gladly leave Kaohsiung City’s smog blanket behind and head once again to the mountains around Wutai, which is a mere 90-minute drive from my home in the city but it might as well be in another world.

When entering the Wutai mountains via their sole access point on Highway 24, all visitors have to stop and sign in at a checkpoint, presumably because of the increased danger posed by the high risk of landslides in the area. Engineers work ceaselessly to shore up the road and stop further disastrous slides down the mountain, in an endless struggle against the forces of nature. At one point, the highway – the only connection these remote villages have to the rest of the world – tapers to a single lane dirt track wide enough for only one car, with a sheer cliff on one side and a steep drop on the other.

Of course, all of this adds to the Wutai area’s feeling of isolation and remoteness – in other words, the perfect antidote to a hard-working week in the city!

Despite the clear, sunny weather, the birds weren’t very obliging today. A walk down to the abandoned village revealed only a Vivid Niltava and a Daurian Redstart, which are both lovely birds but with almost nothing else seen – apart from a fly-over House Swift – it all felt rather slow.

I continued down the mountainside a little beyond the abandoned village, on an overgrown trail through disused gardens and allotments. It looked a good area for buntings, and indeed I heard a Black-faced Bunting calling somewhere but didn’t manage to see it.

Returning to the dirt road, I walked for a few hundred yards past the scree slopes, scanning the rocks below the road for the slim chance of locating a roosting Savanna Nightjar. I didn’t feel like risking a scree-slope scramble today, which was an effective and adrenalin-charged way of locating three of the birds when I was here just after Christmas. If I’m still without Savanna Nightjar for the year list in a few weeks, I’ll pluck up the courage to try it again.

Just before arriving in Wutai village, when approaching from the west, is a clearly signposted left turn to Dawu. Today I took this road down to the river bridge, where I parked and nearby quickly found two Collared Finchbills in what seems to be a reliable area for them (I also saw this species on my only previous visit to the same spot a couple of weeks ago). There were also several noisy but skulking groups of Taiwan Scimitar-Babblers which evaded all attempts to photograph them. It was good to see a very smart male philippinensis Blue Rock Thrush here, while the ever-attractive Black-eared Kites were almost constantly in the sky overhead.

Collared Finchbill, Wutai, 12th January 2014
Collared Finchbill, Wutai, 12th January 2014

I then tried to drive all the way to Dawu, which I could see far below me nestled next to the river with some promising-looking agricultural land around it (Russet Sparrow in mind). The condition of the road varied from OK to horrible. I was still quite a few steep switchbacks above Dawu when I decided to turn back, a Kawasaki Ninja definitely not being the right kind of bike to attempt this road on. I shall either have to return here on a scooter, or better still, walk down to Dawu and bird along the way.

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